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After commission slip-up, council to hear fire services presentation

ENCINITAS — For the past few years, city activist Bob Bonde has tried to present a plan to council he believes would save money on fire services. Soon, he’ll get his chance.

The opportunity comes on the heels of some confusion over whether comments should have been allowed during a public meeting.

Bonde presented his plan to the Traffic and Public Safety Commission on April 15, though because of some of uncertainty over policy, comments from the public and the commissioners weren’t allowed.

Peter Kohl, chairman of the Traffic and Public Safety Commission, said during the meeting that comments were forbidden because the commission isn’t the proper venue to address the matter.

In response, residents at the meeting left the room and brought their concerns to City Manager Gus Vina, who was in his office at the time. Vina then walked into the meeting and informed Kohl that comments are allowed.

Ultimately, the commission voted 6-1 to allow comments.

Still, Bonde’s supporters took to the City Council meeting on April 16 to voice concerns that the city was stifling consideration of the plan.

Resident Marie Dardarian said that even though comments were eventually permitted, few commissioners spoke afterward because they were intimidated.

“Something is going on; it’s not healthy,” Dardarian said.

The commission didn’t offer input on the plan during the meeting.

Bonde said he’s repeatedly tried to get his plan on a council agenda. What occurred at the commission meeting was only the latest setback, he added.

“It’s a political hot potato,” Bonde said of his plan.

However, Bonde confirmed on Tuesday the city invited him to speak in front of council, tentatively scheduled for sometime in early June.

Bonde’s plan includes closing fire stations and running more ambulances in place of fire trucks, which he maintains would slash expenses.

Kohl later said he was wrong to try and deny comments.

After watching a council planning session on public safety two months ago, he was under the false impression that only the council should weigh in on fire issues.

Kohl noted some have accused him of being a puppet for the city.

“This was my decision alone — no one at the city directed me to do this,” Kohl emphasized.

Vina said that as a result of the traffic commission slip-up, new commission chairs, liaisons and directors would be trained before leading their first meeting.

Previously, he noted training was offered once a year, but sometimes that occurred after new chairs started.

At last week’s council meeting, Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said she made a motion to hear Bonde’s plan over a year ago, which was seconded by Councilman Mark Muir at that time.

In light of this, she said it’s time Bonde has a chance to present  to council.